It’s All in Our Perception

This was shared with me recently…and at this time of the year, when we’re (maybe) moving too fast…slowing down, and really SEEING what beauty surrounds us…let’ make a commitment to one another to do that more.  I received a thotspot email today that focused on the same thing:

Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look
around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Matthew Broderick

So, here’s the story….


Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes later:

the violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes:

A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

45 minutes:

The musician played continuously.  Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace.  The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities. The questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:  If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made…. How many other things are we missing?


As always, I welcome your comments!

Love and Great Joy,


5 Responses to It’s All in Our Perception

  1. Kim Stacey says:

    This morning, when I was taking out the cold ashes from the last time I cleaned out the wood stove, my driveway was crowded with deer. There’s a family of these gentle beings, living in the orchard across the street from my cabin…and they all came to give me holiday greetings I guess! They lingered for a bit, as I talked with them (I often do, when walking by the orchard); then they slowly strolled back home.

    We are all blessed by the presence of gentle creatures – different shapes, sizes…but all serving to remind us that we are living in a very special world.

    Thanks Karen; and thank you, KCC community, for all the gentle reminders you share with me each and every day.

  2. Mary Kieran says:

    Ciao Karen,

    Thank you for sending “The Beauty You May be Missing” for me to read. I recently signed up for your free newsletter to help me jump start my business. I live in California in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and am starting a business called Bella Italia Travel.

    Contrast the hurried commuters in Washington D.C. with those I saw last October in Verona, Italy. A couple from Belarus were playing instruments—she a hammer dulcimer and he an accordion-like instrument at the side of a busy pedestrian-only street. The flow of passers-by was slowed down by the knot of interested bystanders that were listening in joy and fascination to the sparkling and lilting notes of Mozart’s “Rondo” flying fast and furiously from the hammered strings of Hanna’s Russian instrument. What joy there was on the faces of the listeners! You can be sure I bought one of their CDs that day, and was listening to it just now in memory of that magical day.

    I agree that it is a sad commentary when people are too busy to smell the roses, or hear the angelic sounds that are all around us everyday. I fear this is a tragedy of epic proportions here in the States. America, by and large, has forgotten where to find real joy—by looking in all the wrong places for it.

    My business seeks to give some of that joy back to Americans by helping them overcome their money fears to travel to Italy—the land of realized dreams and real beauty. Our Pilgrimage to Inner Beauty, in particular, is designed to help people reconnect with the beauty both inside and outside. Everyone always can use some more beauty in her life!

    Thanks, Karen, for sharing this wake up call for us all.

    Blessings in all that you are doing to help others,
    Mary Kieran
    Bella Italia Travel

  3. musings says:

    This is a profound story… Looking forward to sharing it. So much magic goes unnoticed and this story reminds all of us to pause, notice, and then bask in moments that make our hearts sing. THanks for sharing, Karen. Merry Christmas!

  4. Thank you for sharing Karen,

    I enjoy the meaningful and inspirational messages you send my way! So does my family. My kids just wrapped up an AP Psy class where they performed several social experiments. They especially liked this one and asked to forward it to their teacher. I hope they paid attention to the meaning as well. Seeds, Karen, that’s what I’m planting. p.s. I’m careful to water them as well.

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